Who Does Crystal Know

Well, she certainly knows me quite well.


Over the last five years the amount of data freely available online has increased tenfold. “Big data” has become so overused as a term it’s almost become as hated as “synergy” in business meetings. However, while that term is still difficult to achieve, big data is rapidly becoming overwhelming in its ubiquity.

As a result, startups like Crystal, IFTTT, Evernote, and others have sprung up to capture, organize and attempt to make use of the data we’ve been freely providing via our online social interactions, purchases, and behavior patterns.

Crystal is a new service that aims to break down one of the grayest areas of human interaction today: online communication. Part psychic, part creepy, and part genius it allows its users to peek into a colleague’s inner workings and motivations.

The service is simple and easy to deploy, either via a Chrome extension for Gmail or through the platform on the .com. It analyzes people based off open data it’s able to crawl on the web – then grades the accuracy of said information. Essentially, Crystal tells you the best way to communicate with any prospect, customer, or coworker based on their unique personality. Advanced options allow for analysis of how your personality meshes with a potential client or co-worker. You can even tie Crystal’s API into your own CRM.

Providing context where there seemingly is none is an invaluable service if done correctly. Crystal is taking a huge step forward into organizing, evaluating and making the vast swaths of data we put out about ourselves into something tangible and useful.

However, where Crystal has focused on one-to-one email interactions, I’m more intrigued about how this technology could be utilized when paired with other data sources like financial information and pointed towards the mass market. What if your bank account started to talk and react to your behavior in a more nuanced manner – and one that better fit your communication style? Or if instead of seeing a text-heavy multiple-choice question within a survey, you began seeing image-based options?

With this in mind I actually reached out to Drew D’Agostino, the Crystal Project’s founder with a few questions about his vision for Crystal and the inspiration behind his product:

Could you share a bit more about your inspiration for the Crystal Project?

It really came from my own experience trying to communicate more empathically with my employees at my last company. Sometimes, people with different personalities essentially speak a different language, and I wanted to build the translator.

The psychology influences found within the product are readily apparent. What was some of your initial feedback from users of the product about their OWN personality assessments?

According to our own user feedback and surveys, about 80% report that their profile is “very accurate”.

How important was looking at this first input action from a UX standpoint?

It’s key. We wouldn’t launch the product until hitting 75%.

Who do you aspire to become as a company?

We hope to make empathy the standard for online written communication, making personality assessment as important as spell-check.

Do you see any external (non-email communications) opportunities for the Crystal Project (i.e., leveraging the Crystal API for display/search advertising)?

We are planning on eventually doing something like this, but our focus will always be adding value to both sides (i.e., sender + recipient) rather than one side.

As you can see, we’re slowly climbing out of the uncanny valley of data that has haunted online advertising for the last decade. No more #adfails, false paternity announcements or miscommunications. I for one am excited about the future – and what this technology could do to transform advertising as we understand it in its current form.

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